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ENG Student Dies in Plane Crash

James Chatham killed in Colorado


James Chatham (ENG’11), 25, a College of Engineering LEAP student from Spokane, Wash., died in a small airplane crash in Colorado on August 4. Also killed in the crash were Catherine Heveran, the mother of LEAP student Chelsea Heveran (ENG’12), who had been dating Chatham, and Catherine Heveran’s husband, John Howard.

The 1951 single-engine Beech Bonanza was en route from Boulder to Sunnyvale when it crashed. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the cause of the crash.

LEAP (Late Entry Accelerated Program) enables students with a bachelor’s degree but a nonengineering background and working professionals to complete preliminary undergraduate engineering studies at ENG before entering a master’s degree program. Chatham had been admitted to the fall 2010 master’s program in materials science and engineering.

“It’s an incredible loss for the LEAP community,” says LEAP manager Helaine Friedlander, who oversees approximately 75 students. “Everyone knew Jim and felt close to him; students described him as the glue of the LEAP community.”

Soumendra Basu, an ENG mechanical engineering professor, says that even with his limited engineering background, Chatham was a “star student” in a required course for PhD students last year. “He really got the material,” Basu says, “posed incisive questions, and showed a keen understanding of the big picture.”

Deeply interested in sustainable energy solutions, Chatham wanted to work in the alternative energy field, and chose the master’s program in materials science and engineering as a path to that goal.

“He found in the MSE program his ideal confluence of hot-topic science and engineering,” says Chelsea Heveran. “He appreciated his professors at BU immensely, as well as the opportunities for networking. However, first and foremost to Jim was the LEAP student community—he enjoyed the diversity of experiences and maturity of LEAP students, and counted his friends at BU as among his closest anywhere.”

Chatham came to the LEAP program last fall after earning a bachelor’s in chemistry at Lewis and Clark College, where he was on the dean’s list for four years, and serving in the U.S. Army, receiving the Army Commendation Medal. As a supply sergeant in Iraq, where he was responsible for the health and well-being of more than 200 refugees and for more than $1 million of equipment, he developed procedures for the safe repatriation of the refugees. He also served in South Korea as a turbine mechanic foreman, rebuilding turbine engines for M-1 tanks. 

Brooks Henderson (ENG’11) says he will always remember Chatham’s energy, as well as his desire to improve himself and the lives of his friends. “Jim was one of the first people that I met at BU,” says Henderson. “I immediately noticed his intelligence and generosity. He shared his diverse interests openly with his friends, and you always left a conversation with Jim feeling like you had learned something new.”

Send condolences to the Chatham family at 1403 East 58th Ave., Spokane, Wash. 99223, and to Chelsea Heveran at 2204 Dollarhide Way, Ashland, Ore. 97520. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in James Chatham’s name to Second Harvest of Spokane or to your local food bank. 


2 Comments on ENG Student Dies in Plane Crash

  • Rich Pasco on 08.25.2010 at 6:09 pm

    Jim Chatham

    Reading this article I mourn Jim Chatham, although I never met him; I wish I had. As a close friend of Cathie Heveran and John Howard, I came to know Chelsea while preparing their memorial, and Jim through the memories Chelsea shared. Chelsea is an incredible woman, as Jim must have been as well. The world has clearly suffered a great loss.

  • Laura Montgomery on 06.01.2015 at 3:14 am

    I went to elementary school and middle school with both him and his brother. I was very sad to hear about this and think about him often. He did a lot in the short time he had and he will be missed greatly. Thoughts and prayers to his family.

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